Odysseus by Joseph Fasano
Think of the moment before the moment.
Before recognition. Before the nurse saw
the boar’s scar coursing down his thigh
where the world had first entered him
in the forests of childhood. Before
Penelope. Before his battle for her heart.
Think of his moment alone on the beach,
his sailors running up to the village
where girls stood wringing spices
from their hair. Think of the gods saying to him
you do not have to praise ruin anymore;
you do not have to praise what is lost.
How you imagine him is how you enter things.
He is kneeling. Or he is weeping. Or he is turning
toward the sea again, thinking of the great deeds
of the hopeless. Think of him lifting the sands
and touching them to his tongue, to see
if it is real. If it is home. If it is time. Think of the moment
before he knew he had stepped out of the myths
and into his life. Whether that means to you
that he would sing, or mourn, or be lessened.
And his patience when he rose up again
and took himself the long way
toward his kingdom, not knowing
if it had all changed, or if love
had lasted, or if anything can last.
Think of him as though he were your life,
as though you had sat waiting at a loom
for long, dark years, weaving and unweaving
what you are. Think of your life returning to you
with eyes that had seen death. And whether
you would look away if you saw him
pausing a moment among the gardens
and the horses, listening to the song
of each thing, the common things he had forgotten.
Think of him hearing your voice again,
hiding his face in his hands
as he listened, hearing a music
of losses and joys, pestilence
and bounty, a beauty that had prepared
a place for him. And whether you would have him
be changed by that, or return
to what he was, or become
what he had come this way to become.
This poem was a runner up for the RHINO 2018 Founders' Prize.
JOSEPH FASANO is the author of three books of poetry: Vincent (Cider Press, 2015); Inheritance (2014), a James Laughlin Award nominee; and Fugue for Other Hands (2013), which won the Cider Press Review Book Award and was nominated by Linda Pastan for the Poets Prize, “awarded annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet in the two years prior the award year.” His poems and essays have appeared in The Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The Times Literary Supplement, Tin House, and other publications. A winner of the RATTLE Poetry Prize, he teaches at Manhattanville College and Columbia University, where he is also the Faculty Advisor for Quarto.